Since my grandfather (Otis Franklin SWANN) and my dad (Raymond Mitchell THOMAS, Jr.) both worked for railroads, Mama Swann and I could ride the train to Washington on a pass. We boarded in Savannah, Georgia, at night and arrived in the Capitol the next morning. Uncle Charlie met us at the train station and took us to his home. Each summer after that initial visit, I rode ride the train to Washington alone where my visits lasted from two to six weeks.
During those visits, they both treated me as thought I was royalty. Aunt Elizabeth was a walking history book. She gave better tours of the great city, I am sure, than any of the tour guides there. The nicest thing about those visits was sitting up late at night, playing cards with Uncle Charlie, and sleeping in the next morning. Aunt Elizabeth rose early in the mornings, made breakfast for Uncle Charlie, and then went to the grocery store where she bought groceries for that day's dinner
When she returned from shopping, she cooked BRUNCH for me (she said it was a combination of breakfast and lunch) as I had slept through the regular breakfast meal. My favorite "brunch" was a grilled, potted meat sandwich. The sandwiches were always hot, mashed flat by the grill, and the bread was crusty from toasting.
The other day I was shopping and saw a little can of "potted meat." That was the first time I had thought of her sandwiches in years. Tonight, I opened the can, spread it between two pieces of bread, and grilled it in the grill (mashing it flat). I enjoyed imitating her preparation of the sandwich as much as I enjoyed eating it. It was a nice moment. My memories of her brunch menu didn't disappoint me. That doesn't mean I want another one anytime soon, but the joy of the sandwich was remembering the great times I had in her home.
My Aunt Elizabeth was a great lady and I was blessed to have been given opportunities to spend time with her. I never heard her complain, she was always happy, and she always had a sweet, little giggle. She wrinkled her nose when she talked to me and if it was a serious conversation she squinted her eyes shut. I liked her little habits as as they made her a little different from others. She was a former school teacher, she was raised in a Quaker home, she was organized better than Martha Stewart, she took care of her family, but always had time for others. If I could be like anyone in my Family Tree, it would be Aunt Elizabeth. Never a week goes by that sometime during that week she comes to mind. The time she spent with me was not wasted. She taught me to type, to sew, and to identify trees and wildflowers. She taught me to have confidence in myself and see beauty in all things.
And tonight we shared a sandwich again.
|Aunt Elizabeth and Joan in the Blue Ridge Mountains (1952)|